Last Updated:September 2 @ 12:47 pm

Will the Pentagon cut guard and reserve pay?

By Lolita C. Baldor

WASHINGTON (AP) - America's citizen soldiers, who train in their hometowns for a weekend a month and two weeks a year, receive more money for one day of training at home than their fellow National Guard and Reserve members earn for a day serving in the war zone.

Pentagon officials defended the pay discrepancy as incentive for National Guard and reservists who give up their weekends and must be ready on a moment's notice to serve. But it's one of many problems in the complex Guard and Reserve compensation system detailed in a new Pentagon review that recommends changes to make the salaries and benefits more equitable across the board.

The study noted that Guard members and reservists get two day's pay for each day of weekend training - totaling four day's pay for the weekend every month. In contrast, when they are called up to active duty and are deployed overseas to Afghanistan, they get a day's pay for a day's work. As an example, an officer in the reserves or the Guard could get $407 for a day of weekend duty, but get $269 for a day on active duty, or $318 for a day deployed to Afghanistan. Enlisted members could get $171 for a day of weekend duty, $134 for a day on active duty and $161 for a day deployed to war.

The Defense Department will consider the preliminary recommendations made in the review.

Solving the issue, however, is tricky because defense officials realize that one remedy would be cutting the pay that Guard and Reserve receive for weekend training at home.

"That's a sensitive issue, because you're affecting what people receive," said Thomas Bush, who directed the recent review of military compensation, which included the pay problem.

Bush noted that when troops - including Guard and Reserve members - go to war on active duty they get additional hostile fire pay and their salaries are tax free. But even considering those additional benefits, he said, "a day on weekend training is more money."

"It doesn't make sense," he said. "It would make more sense, I think, to have a more uniform pay schedule, like the active duty has."

Pete Duffy, the acting legislative director for the National Guard Association of the U.S., said changing or reducing pay for weekend warriors would face heavy opposition around the country.

"It's an incentive for National Guard and Reserve members to serve," he said, adding that when members have weekend duty, most also have regular jobs, so they end up working 12 days without a day off.

Support and benefits for the Guard and Reserve have grown in recent years, after a backlash - particularly from Congress members and state leaders - during the early years of the Iraq war. Officials were furious that some Guard units were being sent to combat with equipment that was often hand-me-downs from active duty brigades.

There also was a push made to beef up enticements for people to join the Guard, as the U.S. military struggled to meet the demands of both wars. The Pentagon increasingly had to tap National Guard brigades to meet the escalating demand for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as combat deployments were extended to 15 months and enlistment standards were lowered to meet recruiting goals.

Reservists also were activated for the war, sent overseas to fill specific expertise gaps or called to fill in at bases in the United States.

The review also recommended allowing Guard members and reservists to begin collecting their military retirement on the 30th anniversary of their service, as long as they have worked the equivalent of 20 years of service. Currently reservists who serve 20 years can't begin collecting their retirement pay until age 60.

The Guard and Reserve pay and benefits system has evolved over the decades into what the Pentagon review called convoluted, confusing, and frustrating. It confounds the service members as well as their commanders who have to request troops for missions and determine their duty status. That status governs their pay and benefits, but can often change monthly.

According to the review, Guard and Reserve members can be called up under as many as 30 different duty statuses, making the system difficult to administer and nearly impossible for troops to navigate and understand. The review recommends paring that down to just six different classifications.

Very broadly, reservists can be called to active duty for federal missions such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; or they can train and perform missions under the authority of their state, such as for forest fires or hurricanes.

There are seven reserve components in the U.S. military: The Army Guard and Reserve, the Air Guard and Reserve, the Navy Reserve, the Marine Corps Reserve and the Coast Guard Reserve. They total more than 1.1 million members, with an operating budget of nearly $50 billion.

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6 Comments

  1. navywifeComment by navywife
    July 2, 2012 @ 10:17 am

    This is assuming they get paid at all. The reserves are so messed up, it takes 30 days on average to be paid for drills. Further, hours of work done at home in the evenings go unpaid…

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  2. draculaalphaComment by draculaalpha
    July 2, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

    Why not give the Reservists and National Guard the extra incentive pay when the USA is NOT engaged in extended combat operations? It would keep them available to be called up when needed. Then they can have the same base pay soldiers overseas get when we are at war somewhere, regardless of where they perform their duty.

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  3. Charles MartelComment by Charles Martel
    July 2, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

    The proponents of change are distorting the facts by omission. Reservists and National Guard members get a days pay for each training period, usually 4 hours in the mornings and 4 hours in the afternoons on a drill weekend. So that sounds like 4 days pay for 2 days work, but it is not the same as 4 days serving in a war zone! Pay for drill time is just basic pay (no housing allowance, no subsistence allowance and no combat pay or war zone exclusions from taxes).

    Cutting pay will have a negative effect on re-enlistments and the 6 and 12 year points, especially after the increase deployment tempo in the last decade.

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  4. Angie HallComment by Angie Hall
    July 10, 2012 @ 11:38 pm

    The description is very inaccurate. Reservists pay for their own gasoline, uniform cleanings, etc; They drive long distances, and often miss days of work at their regular jobs for longer drill weekends. And this may happen at the drop of a hat. Sometimes they do not get paid for months. For instance, this week, my husband has an extra two days of drill, four days in a row. They are telling him they may not pay for either food or berthing. They are expected, more and more, to do so much extra work on their computer after hours, and even schedule their own training. Every three years they are called to active duty for months at a time.Sometimes sooner. And they often have to repay money that was overpaid to them a year later,right away, or pay interest. A great deal of sacrifice goes on, both personal and financial. My husband does not complain. He loves his country. But the truth needs to be understood.

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  5. gijoeComment by gijoe
    August 1, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

    This article is a total misconception. What the author is not noting is the fact that while on active duty, members earn BAH and other entitlements which raises their pay to that close to drill pay. When I’m performing title 10 or 32 duty, my pay is almost identicle to my drill pay, if not more. Very sloppy journalism. But what can you expect.

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  6. Bruce ScottComment by Bruce Scott
    August 5, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

    The only way this could approach being fair is to grandfather all Reservists with more than 10 good years of service under the cutrrent system. Then Service Members could vote with their feet. Secondly if it goes to one UTA for one days pay; two UTAs per weekend drill then we need to aknowledge that the vast majority of M Day Service Members do not get fed. Any training schedule that begins before 0700 or ends after 1800 needs to have “Rations Not Available” pay addded to their weekend. Additionally unless a hot meal is provided at lunch “missed meal” needs to built in to Drill pay for each training assembly. The highest Per Diem allowed should be paid as to compensate for all the things the Active component take for granted. Those uniform items like unit crests and shoulder sleeve insignia that only seem to be available to Sr NCOs and Officers. Uniform alteration for rank and service stripes, laundry (remember the “special” laundry soap we all bought for ACUs for years?) and other services not available far from the fagpole. Other Special Pays need to be included for M Day Service Members as well like BAH, VHA etc before you begin to equate Reserve Service pay and Active Service pay.

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